We are still very much in a "Nickelodeon" stage of computing, searching for ways to expand our infant technology. The sites below contain Java applets--small pieces of powerful software that extend the capabilities of a Web browser far beyond static text and image--that demonstrate behavioral algorithms of the sort typically employed in the computer gaming industry to create increasingly wily adversaries. None of them is an animation in the classic sense of the flip book. Rather, the animator creates a set and "actors," establishes parameters for their behavior, and determines the physics of their little universe. The graphics are all generated based on rules that produce an infinite number of outcomes. These devices have been employed to great effect in computer games like The Sims and in Hollywood blockbusters like Jurassic Park and Titanic, but they're also increasingly subjected to serious aesthetic investigation by digital artists like Mark Napier, Golan Levin, John Simon Jr., and me. My guess is that ar tists of the future will look to these as examples of the "new art"--however that ultimately manifests itself.
Steering Behaviors for Autonomous Characters
My studio is in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and I frequently transfer from the F to the J train at Delancey Street. The queuing-behavior model developed by Craig Reynolds at this site perfectly reflects the mad dash as the subway doors open and a flood of commuters race into the narrow connecting passage. Reynolds has compiled a collection of autonomous steering behaviors as well as links to additional websites devoted to behavioral artificial intelligence. Rather than use representations of humans, Reynolds creates "characters" of mathematical significance, comprised of visual elements--sticks and balls and swinging things--that indicate the inner workings of the code.
Computer Visualization of the Marine Environment
This three-dimensional example of Reynolds's flocking algorithm, created by William C. Graham Jr., takes Web surfers to a virtual sea, illustrating models of fish schooling behavior and predator-prey movement patterns. The site provides a useful explanation of how such behaviors work. The applet, which is more graphically rich than Reynolds's, requires the Java 2 plug-in; the site can help you download it.
While steering behaviors represent an artificially intelligent system on the macro level, this extensive particle simulator reproduces intelligent locomotion on the micro level. You can throw things at your particle, manipulate the electrostatic forces and air resistance around it, and put it into orbit. Once you're happy with the environment you've constructed, upload it to a common server so other viewers can experience your particle world.
Mirek's Java Cellebration
If particle physics demonstrates locomotion, then Cellular Automata (CA) go under the skin to represent an organism's internal functions: cell reproduction, viral spreading, and so on. Pioneered decades ago by scientists John Walker and Rudy Rucker, among others, CA operate under a set of simple rules that result in a graphic output strikingly similar to self-organizing systems in nature--think crystalline structures, like salt. Mirek Wojtowicz's compendium CA, with more than 300 sets of rules and 1,400 patterns, is one of the most extensive of its kind on the Web. You select the rules and an initial dispersal pattern (or make your own), and let it rip.
The Computational Beauty of Nature
For further explorations in natural computing (no, it's not an oxymoron), MIT published The Computational Beauty of Nature (1999) with this companion website of Java applications. Here visitors can play with a variety of classic fractal, CA, behavioral, and chaos algorithms all in one neat and tidy package. Leave it to MIT to make order out of chaos.
Visit www.artforum.com for links to Hotlist websites.
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|Title Annotation:||digital art|
|Date:||Nov 1, 2002|
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